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News: Charity calls for urgent action on "shocking" new healthy life expectancy figures

Age Scotland news

Published on 31 August 2021 02:48 PM

Age Scotland is calling for urgent action to tackle health inequalities, after the latest report from National Records of Scotland shows Covid-19 has exacerbated a staggering gap in healthy life expectancy.

Not only has the pandemic had a devastating impact on older people across Scotland, but those in the least well-off areas were 2.4 times more likely to die from Covid-19, according to the Registrar General’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends released today.

Part of this is due to underlying health conditions such as diabetes, obesity and lung disease being more common in more deprived areas.

Mortality rates are normally higher in poorer areas, but the report showed that Covid-19 appeared to be increasing this effect. The death rate for all causes was 1.9 times higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived ones.

Around 72 in 100 COVID-19 deaths were among people aged 75 and over, with only 1 in 100 among those under 45.

The report showed a 25-year gap in healthy life expectancy between men in the most and least deprived areas of Scotland.

Men in the 10 per cent least well off areas can expect only 47.0 years in good health, compared to 72.1 for those in the 10 per cent better off areas. For women, these figures were 50.1 and 71.6, a gap of more than 21 years.

Scotland’s leading charity for older people is concerned that the pandemic has exacerbated the already unacceptable gap in healthy life expectancy. It is warning that this could increase in coming years, due to the negative impact of lockdown restrictions on people’s lifestyles and pause on routine healthcare services.

The report also found there was a significant disparity in Covid-19 death rates between ethnic groups. The deaths of people of South Asian origin were almost twice as likely to involve the virus as those of White Scottish origin.

Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland said: “It is completely unacceptable that there is a quarter century gap in healthy life expectancy between men living in Scotland’s most and least deprived areas. The situation is almost as bad for women, with a gap of more than 20 years.

“We warned earlier this year that the pandemic could have a serious impact on health inequalities. Now it seems that our worst fears have been realised, with Covid-19 only exacerbating this situation.

"It’s shocking to see that those in less well-off areas were 2.4 times more likely to die from the virus, partly due to a higher incidence of risk factors such as diabetes, obesity and lung disease.

“The stark disparity between ethnic groups is also extremely worrying, with people of South Asian origin almost twice as likely to have Covid-19 listed as a cause of death than those of White Scottish origin.

“We’re also concerned that the negative impact of Covid-19 restrictions on people’s lifestyles and the pause on routine health services could impact health for years to come. As we look to the recovery, we urgently need to look at preventing ill health in the first instance and address the impact of poverty.

“Scotland’s population set to age rapidly over the next few years. But unless we take urgent action now, people are likely to spend more and more years of their lives in poor health, putting additional strain on our overstretched NHS and social care systems. If we really want Scotland to be the best place in the world to get older, then tackling these health inequalities must be a top priority.”

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